The man at the centre of a violent arrest downtown Kelowna last month has filed a lawsuit over the incident, naming the officer caught on camera delivering several punches to his face while he was restrained.
In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday, Tyler Russell outlines six causes of legal action against Const. Siggy Pietrzak, the B.C. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Russell, a Kelowna glass fitter, claims he was sitting in the passenger seat of his work vehicle on May 30 when two uniformed RCMP officers approached him and asked him to get out of the vehicle.
The lawsuit says Russell declined to exit the vehicle or provide a breath sample because his keys were not in his possession or near him and he was not in violation of any criminal or bylaw offences.
“The plaintiff has no obligation to comply with unlawful demands,” Russell’s lawyer, Michael Patterson, asserts in the lawsuit. Russell eventually got out of the vehicle and was arrested, allegedly without being informed of his Charter rights.
The lawsuit goes on to outline the part of the arrest caught on video, which showed Russell struggling with an officer on each arm.
“While struggling with the RCMP officers, the plaintiff was never a threat to the RCMP officer’s safety,” the claim says. “Pietrzak came running onto the scene and without any hesitation, he began punching the plaintiff repeatedly.”
The lawsuit says Russell suffered cuts and bruising to his face as well as damage to his nose and ribs.
When the video of the arrest was published by Castanet, the Kelowna RCMP said they were called about a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot in the 200-block of Bernard Avenue in Kelowna.
Police say an intoxicated man was located inside the vehicle, who did not cooperate and was arrested for allegedly obstructing a police officer.
“During the arrest, the man actively resisted and allegedly turned combative toward the RCMP officers, who requested immediate backup,” states Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, media relations officer for the Kelowna RCMP.
“The suspect was taken into custody after a brief struggle. He was medically assessed by BC Emergency Health Services and later transported to hospital for treatment of minor injuries,” said Noseworthy’s statement on June 1.
Once at the Kelowna RCMP detachment, Russell’s lawsuit claims a bag was placed over his head and he was strapped to a chair, where he complained about his injuries. He was eventually taken to Kelowna General Hospital, but received no medical attention, and was “placed in a small room with KGH security and strapped to a radiator so he was unable to leave.”
The lawsuit alleges Russell was later forced from the hospital by security and the RCMP without seeing a doctor.
“Blood was dripping from the plaintiff’s face while he was at the KGH. The RCMP officers made every effort to get the plaintiff to leave without any medical care and without seeing any medical professionals.”
After leaving the hospital, Russell went to his mother’s house, who took photos of the injuries.
“The plaintiff was not charged for an offence,” the lawsuit continues. “The RCMP and Pietrzak committed the acts herein despicably, maliciously, and oppressive, with the wrongful intention of injuring the plaintiff.”
The civil claim alleges Russell’s Section 9 and 10 Charter rights were violated by the officers when they arrested him without advising him of the reasons for detention or his right to retain counsel.
The lawsuit seeks a variety of damages, claiming the injuries he sustained aggravated earlier injuries “such that they are impossible to separate.”
The Kelowna RCMP were not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
During a press conference in the days after the video of the arrest was published, detachment commander Supt. Brent Mundle called the video “concerning” and said an internal review is underway.